Monday, August 30, 2004

Do not put your trust in princes...

My friend David at conXian makes an excellent point. In his post, The Case for Kerry, he points out that most people are either voting for or against Bush. That was certainly the case when I wrote this post. He makes several good points and he is definitely saying something that needs to be said. That is, Kerry has significant merit as a presidential candidate besides just being someone other than Bush.

The challenge for me is that I have trouble getting behind any particular candidate. I tend to think of this line from Psalm 146:3 (NIV) "Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save." A lot of political figures that I've put my faith in (so to speak) have let me down. Particularly hurtful was the downfall of politicians like Neil Goldschmidt (he raped a 14-year old girl when he was mayor of Portland) and Frank Shields (a Methodist minister and state senator who resigned from the UMC to avoid being defrocked after his adultery was discovered). I know that they are just men and their failings show that they are indeed human.

I think another problem for me is that a surprising number of men (not my father) who were involved in my life as a child turned out to be pretty despicable people. My scoutmaster was convicted of a felony for defrauding the Social Security Administration; another Boy Scout leader very publicly cheated on his wife for years; A trusted teacher grew into an angry and abusive man; and so on. The real problem is probably the fact that I (and probably most other people too) have unrealistic expectations of the people that we look up to. When we're hurt because they fail to live up to our expectations we decide not to trust anyone.

The irony, in my case anyway, is that I yearn for someone to inspire me. I want a candidate to follow. I want to work for a charismatic and intelligent leader. But I'm unwilling to place my trust in anyone. I can just hear the evangelicals out there saying, "Put your trust in Jesus! Jesus is the only man worth following." Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that. We need leaders. We need people who are alive now to motivate us and move us to create the world we want.

This makes me think of the movie City Hall (which I happen to think is a great movie - one of my favorites). It stars Al Pacino as the mayor of New York City and John Cusack as Deputy Mayor. Cusack is very idealistic and deeply believes in what Pacino wants to do. Through the course of a major scandal Cusack discovers that Pacino is corrupt and just as dirty as every other politician. This man that he'd placed his trust (and his career) in, lets him down. As the movie ends, Cusack is running for City Council himself. The way I see it, he hasn't let his idealism be crushed by the betrayal of the Mayor. Rather, Cusack realizes that he is the person he was looking for. Rather than put his faith in someone else, he's trying to become the type of leader he believes the City needs.

But I don't feel like I'm the person I'm looking for. I doubt my ability to be the kind of leader that could really create change in my community. Am I a coward? A realist? I'm not sure there's an answer.

Here's Eugene Peterson's translation of all of Psalm 146 (MSG):

1 Hallelujah! O my soul, praise GOD!
2 All my life long I'll praise GOD, singing songs to my God as long as I live.
3 Don't put your life in the hands of experts who know nothing of life, of salvation life.
4 Mere humans don't have what it takes; when they die, their projects die with them.
5 Instead, get help from the God of Jacob, put your hope in GOD and know real blessing!
6 GOD made sky and soil, sea and all the fish in it. He always does what he says--
7 he defends the wronged, he feeds the hungry. GOD frees prisoners--
8 he gives sight to the blind, he lifts up the fallen. GOD loves good people,
9 protects strangers, takes the side of orphans and widows, but makes short work of the wicked. 10 GOD's in charge--always. Zion's God is God for good!




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